In a wide-ranging interview with CLNS, the Celtics online radio site, Ian Eagle says the Nets management doesn't have the same expectations for this season as they did for last year, when the team made the playoffs on the last day of the season, then lost in the first round to the Hawks.
He also talked about Deron Williams and Joe Johnson and the Nets willingness to take risks, be creative, knowing they don't have picks of their own going forward.
As for expectations, Eagle said it's a case of toomuch youth, too little consistency, too many unknowns, Eagle told Larry H. Russell in an interview aired Sunday. The Nets, he said, need to "hit some doubles," not necessarily home runs, with their kiddie corps, specifically mentioning Shane Larkin, Thomas Robinson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
"If you're asking if they feel its the same expectation, No. It can't be. They have too many young players that are unproven to make this determination that they're ready to continue on the path they were going. they have to figure out who they are what their identity will be. And Lionel Hollins is also going to have to figure out which guys he can rely on because they're a bunch of young guys who just haven't done it at this level consistently enough to say that you expect it from them.
"They need a couple of these young guys to stick, whether it is Shane Larkin, whether it is Thomas Robinson, whether it's Hollis-Jefferson. SOme of thest young guys have to be legitimate players. I'm not saying stars, but they have to be impact players -- guys who they can rely upon. Their margin of error is just a bit slimmer based on the fact that they don't have those draft picks in their back pocket to rely on, if this season or next season or the season after, things go awry.
"I dont think they've been scared or hesitant to pull the trigger on anything based on the fact that they're still going to owe all of these draft picks. They are attempting to craft a roster that could grow. The youth part is the biggest key. They were older, with KG, with Pierce. They were an older team, one of the oldest in the NBA. They've changed that, they've changed it quickly. Not all these moves are going to be home runs. They never are, but they've got to hit a couple of doubles here. They need some base hits to see if some of these guys can survive this and be a part of it in the future."
Eagle also contrasted the personalities of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, suggesting one's love of the game is less than the others, even speculating the D-Will could hang them up if things don't work out in Dallas. As for Johnson, Eagle said his attitude and work ethic are seen as a positive on such a young team.
"He's made a lot of money, a lot of money. I think that hes been a smart businessman with that money. And with that said, there probably have been some moments where he has looked in the mirror and said, 'I dont love what I'm doing.' ANd again, I know from the outside looking in, I know that from the outside looking in, some might say, 'What are you talking about, you're playing in the premier league in the world, you're making ridiculous amounts of money. you're a known entity, you have a growing family, all of that. The world is your oyster' BUT you can't get inside human beings' heads and analyze what's going on. He will not --this would be my sense-- be the guy that squeezes out extra years just to say he's played x number of seasons in the NBA.
"If this doesnt go well in Dallas, Deron could hang them up. and live in a bit more anonymity and it wouldn't shock me at all.
"They look at Joe as one of the guys that younger players can learn from. He works as hard as anybody. He takes it incredibly seriously. Adn while he may not emote a lot out of the court -- and sometimes even behind the scenes; he is reserved --he cares. And that comes across every practice, every shootaround, every game day. It matters a lot to him. And because of that, they're paying a large number this year. and because of that, they're not just going to hand Joe Johnson, just give him away."They were not shopping him as hard, I think, as people thought they were. My sense is his name was floated out there and if somebody blew them away, of course you're gonna take it. But they go into this season with the feeling that Joe Johnson is still an important cog in this and whether that's starting --I've heard rumors that maybe they would consider a bench role. I don't know if Joe would like that-- but developing a sixth man role, where maybe he goes up against second teams and may you bring him in the fourth quarter a closer. There's no doubt they have to monitor his minutes. His minutes were too high last year and his matchups were very punishing on his body. He was playing against opposing power forwards at times when they would go a bit smaller.
"If this team doesnt live up to par, then Joe will obviously be a candidate to be traded at the trade deadline for a team that's looking for that one extra piece, that one guy that's going to put them over the top. And Joe could be a difference maker."
Eagle also said the Nets are willing to take risks on young players, "be creative." He specifically cited their pick of Chris McCullough.
"Chris McCullough is an example, the kid out of Syracuse. Looked like he had first round talent, had the terrible ACL injury. There were questions about whether he would even be drafted, let alone be drafted in the first round. I think the Nets looked at him and said, 'This is an opportunity to get a player who if healthy would have been a top 15, top 12 pick.' So while they made the pick of Hollis-Jefferson in the Portland deal, they got themselves another player that could have been a first round draft pick a year from that draft, the 2016 draft. They're trying to get creative. They believe he can play this year, but they believe that if given the chance to develop the skills, he could have been in that first round conversation, the first half conversation a year later."
Eagle of course talked Celtics and wondered if Brad Stephens might be tempted by an offer from Duke if Mike Krzyzewski stepped down,
- Ian Eagle: Would Duke job be too alluring for Coach Brad Stevens to turn down? (Audio) - Larry H. Russell - CLNS